Well, maybe not ulcers. But, yes, 30 years is a considerable amount of time. And that’s how long Eric Gutterman, the general manager at the Devil’s Films has been in the adult film business. Well, 28 years, to be exact; that is, since 1982, when there was no Internet, and the adult industry was a totally different world.
Gutterman was born in New York but his parents moved to California back in 1954, when he was five years old. So, after you’ve done the math (he’s 59), our man has been in the Golden State long enough to be considered a full-blooded native. Besides that, he was raised in the San Fernando Valley, i.e., Porn Central.
And it’s in the Valley, of course, that Eric began his career in porn. In a nutshell… Gutterman spent three years running California Video Distributors as their general manager; then moved on to VCA Pictures for three years, acting in the crucial capacity as sales manager; afterwards heading over to Leisure Time and running their distributor/sales department, as well as eventually becoming the company’s vice president – for 20 years!
When Leisure Time was sold two years ago, Eric decided to take it easy. For a while anyway, until Devil’s Films approached him.
Simply put, Devil’s made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, quickly pulling him back into the business.
In turn, for the past two years, Gutterman has been the general manager at Devil’s Films, which adds up to 28 years (count ‘em, 28!) in adult.
We recently caught up with the easygoing, downright friendly Gutterman at the headquarters of Devil’s Films, located in the heart of picturesque Canoga Park, CA. Devil’s, of course, is one of the most highly regarded of adult production companies, well known for such powerful gonzo lines as “Gangland” (their inordinately popular interracial anal gangbang series), as well as sundry specialty series gonzo lines as “Gangland” (their inordinately popular interracial anal gangbang series), as well as sundry specialty series focused on MILFs (“Big Titty MILFs,” “MILF Squirters”), teens (“18 Year Old Pussy”), interracial (“My New Black Stepdaddy”) oral (“Mothers Teaching Daughters How To Suck Cock”), large women (“I Like Fat Girls”), ethnic sex (“Tight Indian Pussy”), girl-girl (“Horny Lesbians @ Work”), anal (“Anal Teen Tryouts”) and more!
But a consummate businessman like Eric knows the importance of remaining contemporary. Devil’s production of parodies (their well-received “Twilight” satires), as well as clevertitled niche titles (“If You Wanna Fuck My Daughter, You Gotta Fuck Me First”), and even the GoodFellas line transsexual movies (“Transsexual Interactive: Up Close and Virtual,” “America’s Next Top Tranny”) are timely.
Despite the industry’s hard times Gutterman’s erudite business decisions and highly creative production and marketing efforts is keeping his company fired up ‘n’ ready to move deep into the 21st century.
He’s fighting the good fight.
And Devil’s Films — Gutterman is thrilled to report — is winning!
XBIZ: So you began working in the adult industry back in 1982. From your unique perspective as a guy who grew up in the Valley, what was the adult industry like 28 years ago?
GUTTERMAN: It was a great time. Strip malls would open up, and there’d be just a donut shop and a video store; those would be the only two businesses that immediately opened up in a strip mall. [laughs] And business was good.
XBIZ: Buy a jelly donut, rent a Ginger Lynn video.
GUTTERMAN: (laughs) Right. It was a new era as far as home entertainment. Even the Pussycat Theaters were still in operation. (laughs) This is back when VHS and Beta were just starting to emerge, and many industry folks were still selling their product on Super 8mm. That’s how far back we’re going here. [laughs]
XBIZ: But porn wasn’t your first job as an adult, right?
GUTTERMAN: No. After I got my four-year degree in business, I helped put together an amusement park out in Valencia called Magic Mountain. It was brand new, and they were still leveling the ground and putting up the rides. So I worked in the engineering/ maintenance department, putting up all of the rides, getting them going. I did that for about three years. Then I developed a business with my family called Coral Reef Enterprises.
XBIZ: Sounds exotic.
GUTTERMAN: Well, we would take care of people’s saltwater and freshwater aquariums. [laughs] And we took care of a lot of Hollywood people, as well as had customized tanks built for many of them. I mean, as just one example, we had one tank which took 5,000 gallons of saltwater, and we had to shut down part of Wilshire Boulevard to have it craned up to a guy’s office. We also took care of koi fishponds, and they started calling us “the fish doctors.” (laughs) Now it’s a booming business.
Anyhow, one of my accounts was with Noel Bloom over at Caballero. He had a big koi fishpond in his lobby, a big saltwater aquarium in his office and one at home. And I just got very close to Noel. I’ve always had managerial jobs … [laughs] … and I eventually graduated from maintaining tanks to going out in the field and giving quotes on new aquariums and ponds. New accounts. In terms of maintaining tanks and ponds, I just kept some of my key accounts, and one of them was Noel Bloom’s. So I would go to his home and office and service his pond and his tanks, and everybody got to know me at Caballero. And when Noel needed somebody to run his new company California Video Distributors, some employees said, “Hey, maybe you should call up Eric and have him run the company.” So in I came. And it was a nice change for me that came just at the right time: I mean, sometimes working in a family business isn’t the best thing, you know. [laughs]
XBIZ: But your longest stretch was working for 20 years over at Leisure Time.
GUTTERMAN: Right. And when Leisure Time ended up selling its major division to Sunshine Films — this was two years ago — I negotiated that deal. And even though I could have gone with the deal, I decided not to go.
Then Keith Repult of Devil’s Films came along. I’d known Keith on a professional basis, and in 2006 he bought Devil’s Films from a fellow named Mike Rubenstein, who also owned Rosebud at one time. Anyway, Keith had a guy running Devil’s for a while, but when that particular general manager left, he was looking for a new GM. And even before I left Leisure Time — it was actually about three weeks before I was deciding what day to leave Leisure Time [laughs] — I got a call from Keith.
“I hear you’re gonna be out of a job,” he said to me.
“Yeah, but I’m just going to chill out right now.”
“Well,” he said, “I may have something for you.”
So we met, did a deal, and I really didn’t have that much time off. Maybe two weeks. [laughs]
XBIZ: What’s a typical business day like for Eric Gutterman?
GUTTERMAN: [laughs] Well, after 20 years at Leisure Time — and everybody knows this — it wasn’t really a hard job over there. And I had a lot of leeway. Here at Devil’s, we open up at 8 o’clock in the morning. And it took a lot for me to be behind the desk at 8 o’clock in the morning. [laughs] I mean, on my first day here, I came dragging in with my Starbuck’s coffee, sat down at my desk, put my head on the desktop and asked the sales person, Steve Volponi, if he had any sick days to give me. [laughs] And, believe it or not, it took me about six weeks to adjust to being behind a desk at eight o’clock in the morning.
XBIZ: You’re okay now, though, right?
GUTTERMAN: [laughs] Oh, I’m fine now. Keith, the owner, even said to me, “If you want, why don’t you come in later?” But when you’re running a company, you have to be an example to the employees. So I said to Keith, “No, I want to be in the office sometimes even before the employees come here.” So I get here usually at 7:45 a.m. I have two guys in my art department who start at 7 in the morning, so the building is kind of open when I come in at 7:45. The first thing I do is turn on my computer, then I open up the warehouse, open up all of the doors, sit down and go through the emails that I received throughout the night and very early morning. After that, I go over the receivables — the people who owe us money, that’s very important. [laughs] — and I’ll make some calls to collect money.
Then I work with my salesperson, Steve Volponi. We’ll sit down together, discuss and analyze how sales are going and work together on promotions and things like that. I still love sales: I love going out and seeing people, talking to people and interacting with them on a person-to-person basis. Steve and I also go out on the road to meet with people; not just here in the Valley but all over the United States. We usually go to such varied areas as Arizona, Chicago, Cleveland, New Jersey … the whole East Coast, really. And we do that at least two to three times a year.
XBIZ: Do you oversee the Internet section of Devil’s Films?
GUTTERMAN: Yes. Times are changing, of course. The new generation of consumers coming of age is a crucial factor: the 20 and 30-year-old people who were brought up on the computer. So a lot of what they buy these days is all purchased on the Internet. People in their twenties and thirties don’t go into the brick-and-mortar stores anymore. They go onto the Internet, download a movie or view it for a price, or purchase the DVD — all online. And we have www.devilsfilms.com where people can go to and view a movie for “x” amount of dollars or download a movie. We also just signed up with a company called Night Mobile, and they’re doing an application for iPhones. So we just signed up devilsfilms.mobi.
XBIZ: So, as a hardcore businessman, what’s your view of DVDs?
GUTTERMAN: Well, the DVD business is going the same route as the record business, which is why the brick-and-mortar stores are fading out, just like the record stores. There are no more Tower Records and Virgin Records. These days, all you have are little mom and pop record stores or used-record stores like Amoeba. I mean, there will always be people who want to go into a video store or into a bookstore to physically look at/purchase DVDs and books. But those businesses are, again, dwindling as the new generation coming into this world want to view and/or purchase everything online.
I call it the New Electronic Highway.
Of course, a lot of free porn sites really hurt us and many other companies out there. But we’re trying to control it. We have an outside company that’s helping us fight the battle from a legal standpoint. But it’s a tough battle.
XBIZ: What other managerial functions occupy a typical business day for Eric Gutterman?
GUTTERMAN: I work on a lot of different issues that come up during the day: phone calls, video-ondemand deals, broadcast deals ... Keith has another company where he mainly works. And he comes out here a couple times a month just to check things out and see what’s going on. But I do keep telephone conversations going on with him at least four or five times a week. And I email him anything that he needs to know about. So I always keep him in the loop.
XBIZ: How many employees work at Devil’s Films?
GUTTERMAN: Thirteen. We try to keep it lean and thin. I have Jen who is my credit manager and my HR person. I have a receptionist who also does our invoicing. And I have Sean who is my right-hand person who coordinates a lot of things around here. Independent producers shoot our movies for us, and when they bring us all of the raw material, Sean makes it evolve into a DVD and hands it out to our departments here. We have an editing department, an authoring department and an art department. So everything is done in-house. The only thing we don’t do in-house is duplication. We have an outside duplicator that does that for us.
And, as I say, different issues come up on a daily basis involving editing, authoring, getting our DVDs manufactured, deals pertaining to broadcasting and VOD and working with everybody here. I always ask people how they’re doing throughout the day. And if they have any problems or issues, we work them out. I have an open-door policy. I also work closely with my shipping department to make sure that everything is going well with them.
I have a great group of people here — and I never ask anybody to do anything that I wouldn’t do. And a lot of things I’ll do myself. For instance, sometimes I’ll go into the warehouse and package an order myself, instead of giving it to somebody to do because they’re busy, And when my warehouse people see me do something like that, they go, “Geez, he’s pulling and packaging his own order.” So I try to work with everybody here.
XBIZ: And, in the face of the recession, how is business at Devil’s Films.
GUTTERMAN: Fantastic. The economy is difficult, but Devil’s is fighting the battle — and we’re treading water and not sinking. We’re staying on top of the water. Our sales are constant. Tax time in April always is a bit slow for business. It’s also slow in the summertime. So you come up with creative ideas to boost sales during those slower periods.
XBIZ: Creative ideas such as?
GUTTERMAN: Well, as just one example, a couple months after I came here, I developed the Value Pack. It’s a card that holds three DVDs on it, which we call a 12-hour hardcore action pack. You get three DVDs on a card — no boxes — and they’re a mix of either gonzos or features. Anyhow, the card has a hole punched out at the top so that you can stick it onto a display rack right at the checkout counter. And it’s an impulse purchase. And it does really, really well for us; so much so that the Value Pack has become our signature line here at Devil’s. Stores sell them at anywhere from $14.95 to $19.95 a piece. And customers love to buy them for bachelor parties or gag gifts or stocking gifts.
XBIZ: Great sales gimmick. I know the answer to this question is obvious but… has it been imitated yet?
GUTTERMAN: [laughs] Believe it or not, it took over a year for other companies to imitate us. But, you know what, we haven’t lost a beat.
XBIZ: Sounds like you still have fun doing your job after 28 years.
GUTTERMAN: You know, I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked in this business, but I love it. I enjoy the challenge.